23 Mar 2018

South Korean ex-president detained on graft charges

9:14 am on 23 March 2018

South Korean former president Lee Myung-bak was detained early on Friday on charges of taking bribes when he was in office, becoming the country's fourth leader to end up behind bars.

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South Korean former president Lee Myung-bak is currently being held in a detention centre in Seoul. Photo: AFP or licensors

Mr Lee was grilled by prosecutors earlier this month over nearly 20 charges that involve suspicions he took around 11 billion won ($NZ14.2 million) unlawfully from a number of institutions and individuals He denies any wrongdoing.

A South Korean judge issued the arrest warrant late on Thursday, saying Mr Lee could destroy evidence. The former president was driven to a detention centre in Seoul soon after midnight.

Lee Myung-bak, who was in office from 2008 to 2013, said the investigation into the bribery allegations was politically motivated by prosecutors under the incumbent liberal administration.

Last year, Mr Lee's successor ex-president Park Geun-hye was ousted from office after an influence-peddling scandal and is standing trial on charges of bribery, abuse of power and coercion.

South Korean prosecutors are seeking a 30-year jail term for Ms Park and a Seoul court will deliver a verdict in early April.

- Reuters